Since the importation of Canadian hard wheat for bread-making was
stopped the average intake of dietary selenium has decreased significantly
(see note 1) and it is not unreasonable to think that a considerable
section of the UK population is now deficient.
The enzyme which activates thyroxine is a selenoprotein so those
who are selenium deficient may exhibit one or more of the symptoms
of hypothroidism. Hypothyroidism lowers the basal rate of metabolism
by decreasing the rate at which ATP is synthesised. (See notes 2 & 3)
One consequence of this is that tissues with a high energy requirement are unable
to operate at full capacity and can become unable to meet the demands placed
upon them. One such tissue is the pancreatic gland, which releases bicarbonate
and enzymes into the duodenum.
It is generally assumed that indigestion is caused by over production of gastric
acid, but this is incorrect. Indigestion is caused by underproduction of bicarbonate
by the pancreas because more energy (in the form of ATP) is needed to produce
bicarbonate than is needed to produce an equivalent amount of gastric acid.
Because of its unnatural physical condition white flour is especially effective
in stimulating the release of gastric acid with the result that people who are
selenium deficient cannot produce the bicarbonate needed for its neutralisation.
Not only does this situation cause material in the duodenum to be returned to
the stomach but it means that the material entering the small intestine is too
acidic to be broken down normally by enzymes, and readily absorbed. As this incompletely
digested material contains potentially toxic substances and can act as a substrate
for microbe activity it is the cause of most food intolerances. My own experience
suggests that a supplement of 200 micrograms of selenium a day will correct indigestion
within 2-3 weeks.
Inherited selenium deficiency
Women who are selenium deficient when their children are born will have children
who, if not already deficient, are likely to become deficient at an early age.
There is no reason to suppose that the symptoms of congenital selenium deficiency
are identical to those which develop when adults become selenium deficient. Consequently
it can be argued on biochemical grounds that in addition to food intolerance
conditions such as asthma, hyperactivity, depression, diabetes and obesity are
all manifestations of selenium deficiency. These diseases have only become public
health problems during the last 50 years.
I suggest that the primary concern of physicians who attend poorly infants should
be to ensure that their gastrointestinal tracts are functioning correctly. This
cannot happen if the material passing into the small intestine is too acidic,
because lactase and other enzymes can only act efficiently when the acid material
from the stomach has been properly neutralised by bicar-bonate from the pancreas.
Milk from cows fed on rye grass
The quality of cow’s milk has been attracting comment. But
two points have escaped attention. The first relates to the fact
that the most common grass grown on dairy farms is perennial ryegrass.
Although farmers have a choice in the varieties of crops they grow
their choice is restricted to those varieties that have been tested
and have come out well in trials. These trials are organised by scientists
who follow established protocols and tend to favour the varieties
that produce the most dry matter. Often the latter are those that
are least subject to attack by insects and nematodes.
It has only recently been discovered that the most resistant strains are resistant
because they contain a fungal parasite (similar to ergot) which produces potent
toxins. Much of our ryegrass seed comes either directly or indirectly from New
Zealand where there are problems with insect pests and where scientists have
deliberately infected some varieties of ryegrass with these parasites to give
them protection from the pests.
But these endophytic fungi produce toxins, which, once ingested by cows, can
be released within the milk. Because the toxins combine with serotonin receptors
and those associated with the autonomic nervous system they have the potential
to cause upsets when milk containing them is consumed.
Some of these genetically modified varieties were imported into the UK about
20 years ago. Their toxicity seems to have been greater than the indigenous combinations
already present in the UK. Defra do not wish to discuss what has happened but
I understand that the sale of ryegrass seed that is infected with this fungus
has been stopped. But we don’t know how much toxin has entered our milk.
The reason why some people find goat’s milk is easier to digest than cow’s
milk may be that goats do not usually feed upon allegedly improved strains of
ryegrass. However, as long as people are replete with selenium, rye grass toxins
are probably harmless.
Homogenisation of milk
My second point relates to homo-genised milk.
The veteran nutritionist, Rex Newnham (best known for recognising that boron
deficiency can cause arthritis) has suggested in one of his regular newsletters
that the tiny globules of fat in homo-genised milk cannot be digested and are
absorbed directly from the intestine into the blood. As these globules contain
an enzyme called zanthene oxidase he has suggested that they damage the surface
of blood vessels in a way which facilitates cholesterol deposition.
He has also pointed out that although a large goat and a human have similar weights
the former can synthesise 5-6 grams of vitamin C a day from glucose while humans
are unable to synthesise any. There is evidence that a supplement of vitamin
C can prevent the deposition of cholesterol within arteries and prevent strokes
and heart attacks.
When children are unable to digest milk and other foods properly I believe it
to be essential for their selenium status to be determined. It is also desirable
for their milk to come from a source where neither the cows nor the milk itself
been subjected to industrial management practices.
Selenium is an essential element for humans. The COMA has recommended
RNIs of 0.06mg/day in women an 0.075mg/day in men. Concerns have
been raised that intakes
of selenium in the UK are falling. Estimates for population dietary exposures
of 0.063 mg/day and 0.06 mg/day were recorded in 1985; 0.043mg/day in 1994
and 0.039mg/ day in the 1995. Dietary exposures for the UK population
have also been
estimated in other studies at 0.06mg/day (1974) and 0.034mg/day (1993/ 94).These
figures are averages so that some people must have very low intakes. It appears
that there has not been a further decline in selenium intakes since 1995.
ATP stands for adenasine triphasphate. It is a compound that provides the energy
for many of the anabolic reactions which take place in our bodies. It does
this by releasing energy when it is degraded to adenosine diphosphate. The
fats and proteins in our food that are surplus to maintenance requirements
are usually broken down in a complex process to
produce ATP and carbon dioxide. When this process fails, people either become
obese or diabetic or both. The rate at which ATP is generated is carefully
regulated, the usual rate being largely
controlled by the supply of thyroxine from the thyroid gland.
First published in 2006
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